Invincible,” the edgy, empowering rocker that kicks off the self-titled debut from Adelitas Way is also an apt description for singer Rick DeJesus’ undaunted focus and determination
Born and raised in a rough Philly neighborhood, he saw family members in jail and on drugs, and a friend shot in the head and killed by drug dealers. Rick’s future was likewise bleak -- “my friends were carrying guns, selling drugs, doing drugs, leading reckless lives. I knew I was going to pay the consequences,” Rick acknowledges. So, in 2005, grasping for any escape, on a dare Rick auditioned for a VH1 show that would take him to Los Angeles. With no idea what he was in for, in short succession Rick appeared on the VH1 show ‘Strip Search,” then ended up in Vegas, living in his car for three months, doing anything to make ends meet. “Anything” included the “American Storm” show at the Rivera. Rick calls his short stint in the revue “a rock moment. I was young, poor and crazy… and it beat robbing people.” It also allowed him the means to focus on the anthemic, potent hard modern rock that would become the calling card of Adelitas Way. Rick’s compelling personal dramas are channeled into his performances -- and every dynamic note on Adelitas Way. The heartfelt, radio-ready songs, captured by Grammy-nominated producer Johnny K (Disturbed, Plain White T’s, 3 Doors Down), Adelitas Way, range from the sexy romp of ‘Dirty Little Thing” to the emotionally charged rock anthem of “Last Stand” to the classic mid-tempo rocker “Scream.”
Rick is joined by kindred spirits in the Las Vegas-based quintet. First to join Adelitas Way was Iorio, a high school senior who credits his “rock & roll parents” with getting him a guitar at 7, and turning him on to KISS, Ted Nugent and Van Halen. His style is a mix of ‘70s rock with modern flair, and he notes: “I like Slash and Randy Rhoads—both bluesy and ‘shreddy’ styles.” Trevor Stafford, an in-demand tour and studio drummer, was on Ozzfest with the band Shuvel at 17, and is a fan of System of a Down, Primus, and grunge. A Huntington Beach, California native, he moved to Vegas to be in the band full time. The final puzzle pieces are New York-bred bassist Derek Johnston and West Virginia native guitarist Keith Wallen, who joined after the record was complete. They both bring indie, hardcore and classic rock influences to the Adelitas Way stew.
Trevor gives major props to Rick for getting Adelitas Way shows with artists like Chris Cornell, Hinder and Tantric, and generating the huge industry buzz that ended with the band signing to Virgin. “I played with a lot of people,” says Trevor, “but never anyone like Rick; his work ethic is out-of-control amazing.” Rick and Trevor have more than rock in common. Determined to rise above the chaos of his existence in Philly, Rick graduated high school with a 3.7 GPA and went to college for three years, playing college baseball. Likewise, Trevor earned a partial baseball scholarship, but, like Rick, ultimately chose music. It wasn’t until Rick was 18 and snuck into a bar for an acoustic night, singing in front of 60 people for first time ever (and getting a standing ovation), that he thought, ‘hey, I might not suck!’” Now they’re team players in Adelitas Way, Rick’s winning personality and dogged work growing the band’s reputation one fan at a time, literally. “Every second of my life was focused on music. I bought nothing for the first year doing music in Vegas. I wore the same shirt every day. I handed a demo to every person I saw, and that’s how the mystique began. If I was in Walmart, Dunkin’ Donuts… I probably handed out 6,000 demos. So our first show we drew 900 kids at the Rainbow Bar.”
Rick and the band (in a different lineup) sold 10,000 self-titled records under their own steam, “Move On” earning #1 song accolades in 2006 on Vegas rock station KOMP. Regional tours further honed their reputation as a powerful live act, solidifying Rick as a charismatic frontman who wrote songs that exorcised and explored the demons of his past. Their songs, like “Scream,” written in a scummy Memphis motel room, are a whole-band effort. Rick’s lyrics are at once introspective, compassionate, unflinching and inspiring. On “Invincible,” a band favorite, Rick explains, “I was going for that ‘Incredible Hulk’ feeling; a song that pumps you up, a crowd-pleaser. It’s about our attitude: I’m not going to let anyone stand in the way of my dreams.”
One of the band’s most-asked questions is their name. Rick, the consummate storyteller on and offstage, relates a great true tale. During a band road trip to LA, they took a detour to San Diego, and when Rick woke up from a nap in the back of the band truck, they were getting arrested in Mexico. Corrupt cops robbed the band, but Rick secreted away a little cash in his socks. Freaked out, the band went to the first bar they saw in Tijuana to have a beer and calm their nerves. It was the Adelita Bar. “There were a bunch of young, really pretty girls and I realized it was basically a brothel,” explains Rick. “I chatted with one girl, questioning why she was living this life? And I wrote a song about it. The band name emerged from the sad stories behind the ‘Way’ they lived at the Adelita—Adelitas Way. As a songwriter,” Rick continues, “I’m very emotional, I put myself in people’s shoes a lot and live vicariously. My songs are about true situations.” That’s reflected in their well rounded and timeless album. For instance, “All Fall Down” is about Rick’s headspace before he left the mean streets of Philly. “Before I moved, everything was gloomy and depressing. But as a kid, your only concern was what you were going to be for Halloween, or get for Christmas. So the song is about how you should have savored those moments. I took things for granted.”
In 2009, with the rising success of Adelitas Way, Rick takes nothing for granted, and some days, feels lucky just to be alive. As teenage guitarist Chris observes, “we made it this far by hard work and nickel-and-dimeing it, vans breaking down in the middle of the desert, the whole bit. It took a while to find this ideal lineup, where we all want the same thing. And everything finally feels right.”